Arsenal intent on keeping Fabregas

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger will have returned from South Africa determined to mould a team capable of ending a five-season trophy drought - with World Cup winner Cesc Fabregas at the heartbeat of the side.

With his stint as a pundit for French TV complete, the Gunners boss will now sharpen focus on preparations for the new campaign - beginning at Barnet on Saturday.

While Fabregas, Holland striker Robin van Persie and indeed any other players who took part at the World Cup will be involved at Underhill, the question on just where the future of his captain lies has continued to plague Wenger all summer.

Barcelona's public pursuit of their former trainee has left Arsenal less than impressed - as will the pictures of Fabregas being bundled into a Barca shirt by his Spain team-mates during last night's celebrations in Madrid.

Wenger is reported to have left new Barcelona president Sandro Rosell with a clear message during a brief encounter at Sunday's final in Johannesburg.

One bid of £30million has already been flatly rejected, as Arsenal have no intentions of selling such a key player and one who still has some five years left on his contract.

However, Fabregas made it clear to Wenger before the World Cup that he wanted to return to the Nou Camp.

The Gunners boss must decide, if all attempts to persuade the midfielder to stay at least for one more campaign fail, whether he should keep a player whose heart is elsewhere or reluctantly grant Fabregas his wish to move on.

Those discussions are no doubt set to continue as Wenger takes his squad out to their Austrian training camp, where the rest of the players will regroup before Van Persie and, if he is still at the club, Fabregas are to rejoin ahead of the Emirates Cup on July 31/August 1.

By then, Wenger will want his squad settled as they close in on the visit to Liverpool which kicks off another quest for a first domestic title since 2004.

Long-term target Marouane Chamakh, the Morocco striker, was signed on a free transfer before the World Cup, while promising French centre-back Laurent Koscielny has also arrived in what is understood to be a £10million deal from Lorient.

Wenger fully intends to bring in more defensive cover - which could yet be the return of veteran former skipper Sol Campbell on a one-year deal - and continues to be heavily linked with Fulham's Australian goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer.

Despite the manager suggesting he was not in the market for another creative midfielder, the Gunners are expected to have serious negotiations with Joe Cole. The England international is now a free agent after the end of his contract with Chelsea, but Tottenham are also on the case.

With William Gallas looking set to move to Greek side Panathinaikos, Koscielny could find himself thrust straight into the starting XI alongside Thomas Vermaelen.

The 24-year-old accepts there is a big challenge ahead of him.

"I will have to work like a dog to be at the right level physically, but I am not that scared about the big gap it represents," Koscielny told France Football.

"In Tours and Lorient, I always played in teams who used to have the ball. It is important for me to be the one who restarts the game from the back.

"Moreover, at Arsenal, you have a lot of French people - players and coaches. This fact was as important as playing a leading role in the Premiership and Champions League.

"I have the goal [of playing for France] in the back of my mind. But first of all, I have to settle in at Arsenal.

"Playing for such a big club will give me exposure, anyway. When you play in a team where 75% of the players have caps, it helps."

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